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Heroes of the Zeroes: Lars and the Real Girl

by on June 19, 2010
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Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films of 2000-2009.

“Lars and the Real Girl”
Rated PG-13

Sweet never meant sappy in 2007’s “Lars and the Real Girl,” a forthright, compassionate drama aware that for some, life’s training wheels take time to remove.

Nancy Oliver’s sincere, graceful script about working through grief with the help of tolerance and patience deftly avoided introducing artificial drama. And, as Lars, the reliably terrific Ryan Gosling gave a warm, earnest performance.

Everyone has bouts of insecurity, but they’re often internalized and rarely strike anyone as odd. However, pretending that a doll intended for sexual simulation is real seems awfully external and strange, especially in a small Wisconsin town.

A reserved hermit, the squirmy Lars has a headspace as spartan as his living space — sleeping in the garage of his childhood home, now occupied by brother Gus (Paul Schneider) and pregnant sister-in-law Karin (Emily Mortimer).

When Lars introduces Bianca, a “missionary on sabbatical to experience the world,” Gus fears Lars — still reeling from his mother’s death and father’s distance — has lost it. But the community unexpectedly rallies around Lars’ unique bereavement.

Neither daffy nor dirty, “Lars” treats its characters’ concerns and consternations with respect. It’s not what Gus or Karin has withheld from Lars, but what they represent that terrifies him, and Schneider’s dramatically quivering voice here once he realizes that is as resonant as his quick wit in other work.

Drawing on the idea that growing up is doing what’s right even when it hurts, “Lars” understood emotional confrontation is as viable and vital a part of life as emotional comfort.